LATHAM, N.Y. - The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) announced the decision to delay the start of the 2020 fall sports season amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Officers of the NYSPHSAA voted to move the start date back to September 21 from its original date of August 24.
Regional and State Championships for the fall season have been cancelled as sections and school districts are encouraged to implement geographic scheduling for games and contests within their own regions.
The decision comes at the recommendation of the NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force that met for the third time on Thursday morning.
"As the state considers reopening, it is unrealistic to believe athletic seasons can start on August 24th as originally scheduled," said Paul Harrica, NYSPHSAA President. "The priority will continue to be on the educational process and a return to learning in the safest way possible."
In delaying the start of the fall season, the NYSPHSAA has waived the seven-day practice rule, allowing teams to spend more time training for competition once sports do begin. The Association is also maintaining its current practice requirements for student-athlete game eligibility.
As of its latest guidance on July 13, the New York State Department of Health advised that interscholastic athletics still not be permitted. Once allowed by state officials, schools will have the options to offer off-season conditioning workouts for its teams before the season officially begins.
"We recognize this is challenging for everyone, but the decisions made at the state level are based upon data and statewide infection rates all in an effort to stop the spread of COVID and reopen responsibly," said Dr. Robert Zayas, NYSPHSAA Executive Director. "The Association will continue to follow state guidance and will work collectively with state officials to ensure high school athletics will start up responsibly in the future. As an association, we must be willing to be flexible and continue to explore all options with students' safety as our main focus."
With plenty of uncertainty still surrounding the pandemic, the Association has also put together a condensed seasons contingency plan should fall sports be further impacted or interrupted.
The condensed season plan would have fall sports compete in the spring while delaying the start of winter and spring sports. With this plan, each season would be played over a 10-week span. All dates are still tentative.
The plan is as follows:
Season I (Winter Sports)
Dates: Jan. 4 - Mar. 13
Sports: basketball (girls & boys), bowling (girls & boys), gymnastics, ice hockey (girls & boys), indoor track & field (girls & boys), skiing (girls & boys), swimming (boys), wrestling*, competitive cheer*.
*Wrestling and competitive cheer may be moved to Season II or season III.
Season II (Fall Sports)
Dates: Mar. 1 - May 8
Sports: football, cross country (girls & boys), field hockey, soccer (girls & boys), swimming (girls), volleyball (girls & boys), Unified bowling.
Season III (Spring Sports)
Dates: Apr. 5-Jun. 12
Sports: baseball, softball, golf (girls & boys), lacrosse (girls & boys), tennis (girls* & boys), outdoor track & field (girls & boys), Unified basketball.
*Girls tennis moved from Season II
If this format is used, the possibility of holding Regional and State Championship events for each season will be re-evaluated. Currently, the Association is hoping to hold the winter and sports season entirely as originally scheduled.
There is also the possibility of holding broader regional events such as "Upstate" and "Downstate" championships.
As of now, there are no plans to outright cancel any of the sports seasons for the 2020-21 academic year.
"My main goal, as the Executive Director, is to give the opportunity to participate for every student-athlete in every sport," said Dr. Zayas. "Will choices have to be made? Unfortunately that is probably going to be the case, but I think that is a much better alternative than having students have to be told, as we did back in March, that their season is completely cancelled."
There is no timetable or deadline to make a determination regarding a move to the condensed season format.
With the ability to hold in-person schooling yet to be determined in the state, the NYSPHSAA is aiming to allow the academics to be solved before athletics become a focus.
"We are still waiting from guidance from the State Education Department so there is going to be a lot of information that is disseminated over the course of the next few weeks," said Dr. Zayas. "That is another reason why it was wise for us to hit the pause button today, wait for additional guidance to be provided, wait for schools to determine how they are going to be able to re-open and then slowly implement high school sports programs."
For more information regarding high school athletics in New York State, visit nyspshaa.org.